Selected Quotations


“You have so much within you! Let it grow and develop, and do not forget your old friend who believes in you and your great power of expression.”

–Dane Rudhyar, letter to Fine, 1930.


“Vivian Fine’s is a talent of no small magnitude. She is already technically equipped for almost any problem in music and inwardly possesses such a real antipathy for romanticism, such a real love for music in its purest form that in her Four Polyphonic Piano Pieces heard in Yaddo, one could not help being moved by the sheer truth-beauty which emanates from them.”

–A. Lehman Engel, The Symposium, October 1932


“A brilliant musician is Vivian Fine. An agile pianist, admirable coach, extraordinary reader at sight of most difficult scores, this young Chcagoan transplanted to New York is well and favorably known to our musical world. Yet very few people realize that this serene, amazingly modest girl is a splendid composer, a creator of music of fine substance and outstanding mastery.

–Lazar Saminsky, Musical Courier, February 1, 1943


“Vivian Fine was a genius. Everyone needs to recognize her as one of the greatest American composers of the 20th century.”

–Greggory Cannady, DMA candidate, University of Colorado, Boulder, 2007


“the inner qualities [of Fine] are the same—natural technique and a rigid lack of compromise with anything but her very best.”

–Henry Cowell, in “The Music of Vivian Fine,” by Wallingford Riegger, Bulletin of the American Composers Alliance, vol. 8, no. 1 (1958).


“Miss Fine’s music combines emotional intensity with an intellectualized technique…No rule-of-thumb, no simplified method, no easy short-cut to popularity or fame mars the authenticity of its fine hand-work.”

–Virgil Thomson, American Music since 1910 (New York, Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1970).


“An avoider of circumscribed systems….Her choice of subjects in her stage and vocal music shows imagination and wit….”

–David Mason Greene, Greene’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers, Doubleday, 1985.


“Vivian Fine’s music does not fall into easily recognized categories. It does not exactly accord with the conventions of the concert-room, where formal musical devices and their manipulations are expected, nor to the theatre, where music, whether elaborate or modest, is expected to fulfill a role subordinate to drama. I think I can best describe her work as highly compressed music-drama, or in some cases abstracted ritual in concentrated musical terms, expressed in the instrumentation and proportions of the concert hall. No two Fine pieces are alike either in subject matter or instrumentation; each new work appears to generate its own style appropriate to the subject, and there are no mannerisms which persist from work to work.
     “In larger combinations, Fine conceives initially of resonant unformed masses of sound as a sort of raw material, available for direct “moulding” into sounding musical shapes or configurations. The results, in works such as Paean and Missa Brevis, produce varied and unexpected textures very different in their effect and evocative action from music devised in accordance with the canons of a ’system,’ whether intervallic, harmonic, rhythmic, temporal or aleatoric.”

–Henry Brant, program notes for Drama for Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, January 1983.


“Vivian Fine belongs in this grand old American maverick tradition of…Ives, Harry Partch and John Cage….Sometimes her music…has this marvelous inner quiet, where it just sort of rests and has this marvelous repose and long lines—and in a way that you don’t often encounter. It’s not the long-lined romantic gesture of the 19th century—it’s a kind of leaner mood, something I think is probably very American. If you think of images like the prairies out in the Midwest, these immense expanses in our Midwest, that kind of simple terrain. Then of course, by contrast, she writes this very lively active music…the shapes of the lines are to a large extent unpredictable….She’ll lull you into some kind of a preconception of what’s going to happen and, so to speak, pull the plug.”

–Gunther Schuller, “A Tribute to Vivian Fine,” produced for National Public Radio by the International League of Women Composers, 1986.


“Fine’s music is remarkably consistent. Though the 1944 Concertante for piano is milder, with clear hints of diatonicism, she has stuck fast to her original style, very successfully broadening its expressive and generic range, and suffusing it with a distinctive humour and considerable emotional force. She is a highly significant composer, original, unfailingly individual and wry, quite unlike anyone else.”

–Bea Weir, in Contemporary Composers, Morton and Collins, Ed., Chicago: St. James Press, 1992